Tim Lincecum is a rock star.
The Giants right-hander's stage is a mound in big league stadiums across the country, and like every successful artist, the ace remembers something about every venue he has performed in, and sometimes, every detail of the appearance.
Lincecum was rocked the last time he pitched at Chase Field. He's expecting a much better show when he takes the field against the defending National League West champion D-backs on Opening Day on Friday at 4:10 p.m. PT in Phoenix to kick off the 2012 season.
W: Kennedy (1-0) L: Lincecum (0-1)
SV: Putz (1)
"It's definitely special to get the ball that day and the nod and know you are the guy that's going to open up," Lincecum said. "But once you get past all that, I am just there to do my job. Personally, I feel that you can throw [Madison] Bumgarner or [Ryan] Vogelsong and they'll be just as good. I feel like we have a staff full of aces."
Lincecum is being humble. But the staff ace has had mixed results in his three previous Opening Day starts. In 2009, he struggled and left with a no-decision against Milwaukee. A year later, he shined with seven shutout innings for the win against the Astros to start the season. Last season, he walked away on the short end of a pitchers' duel against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers.
"Obviously, the opponent is the Diamondbacks, and that's going to be a big game, because we have a little bit of remembrance of where we were last year and they were able to celebrate in front of us," Lincecum said, recalling the D-backs clinching the division in a 3-1 win over Matt Cain and the Giants on Sept. 23. "I'm sure a lot of people are itching to get back out there against them and start the battle over. Hopefully, it'll be in our favor this time."
What about the D-backs' pennant-raising ceremony?
"I'm indifferent to it," Lincecum said.
It's easy to understand why Lincecum would want to put his last outing against the D-backs behind him. He gave up five runs on eight hits in five innings for the loss. He also accidentally hit Justin Upton in the helmet with a fastball when a pitch got away from him.
With the loss, Lincecum also finished with a 13-14 mark, the first sub-.500 mark in his five-year career. What probably hurt the most was the fact that the 2010 World Series champion Giants spent last October watching the postseason from home.
Lincecum is at peace. He learned a few lessons that September day in Phoenix, but that should surprise no one. He is a student of life.
"Everything you go through in life, you try to learn from it," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's life or on the baseball field. You try to adapt and make up for stuff you didn't do last year. Every year, you don't want to focus on one thing and lose another. You want to keep that and gain more knowledge."
Lincecum has never been one to brag because his numbers speak for themselves. He also has teammates who gush about him.
|Projected Opening Day lineup|
Last season, the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner and four-time All-Star struck out 220 batters, exceeding 200 strikeouts for the fourth year in a row. His 2.31 ERA after the All-Star break showed his improvement as the year went on, and his 2.38 road ERA proved that he could pitch outside of pitcher-friendly AT&T Park.
What's more, Lincecum sported a 2.74 overall ERA last year despite the fact that his offense managed two runs or fewer in 21 of his 33 starts, including zero runs in 10 of his outings.
That said, Lincecum is not ready to pat himself on the back.
"When I'm in the dugout, I really don't think about my accomplishments," he said. "When I'm in the clubhouse, I'm not thinking about what I have done in the game, it's what I can do now and about having fun with my teammates."
The 2012 season could be a fun season for the Giants. The addition of speedy outfielders like Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera near the top of the lineup should help the offense, and in turn, help Lincecum.
"[I like] the excitement that we've seen on the bases. Guys moving," Lincecum said. "It gets pitchers thinking. I know as a pitcher out there, the last thing I want is guys stealing bases. It gets your head going and you stop thinking about the batter. When you get to see other pitchers go through what you hate, you see what it's like."
Lincecum speaks from experience. He leads by example, but he said he is far from a season veteran.
However, there is no denying his rock-star status.
"He is the face of the organization," Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff said. "He's one of the best pitchers in baseball and accomplished so much in a short time. To be able to sit and watch him day in and day out is pretty amazing."